People are always asking me, because somehow they think I know, which cars chases are the best? So here they are. Now, since this is subjective from the start, let's establish the ground rules here: if you don't agree with the list, it's because you are wrong.
NOTE: since writing this post, every single video I embedded here has been blocked by copyright holders. so - too bad for you. It took me way too long to find decent clips the first time, I'm not going back and doing it again. You're on your own.
Number 5: BULLITT (1968)
This only winds up at number five for a few reasons. First, the movie around which this chase is wrapped is just a crap film. This is one of those "vehicle" movies for it's star, Steve McQueen. The movie as about a San Francisco cop determined to find the underworld kingpin that killed the witness in his protection. Yawn... but that's not why people love this film. People love this film for one reason, and one reason only: the car chase. It is awesome.
The second reason this only winds up at number five is evolution. Cinema, and the car chase too, have evolved, and while Bullitt absolutely laid the foundation for nearly everything to come after it, that doesn't mean we should ignore the fact that people have stepped up - taken the tools and techniques, and yes -made it better.
Having said all that, the Bullitt chase is still amazing and awesome to watch. The 'behind the wheel' shots of the cars careening down the hills in the Mission district make your stomach leap (if your screen is big enough). My favorite part? The chase starts slow, cat and mouse style, with a groovy 1960's score under it. Then - the bad guy actually puts his seatbelt on - they shoot an insert for it! - and then it's on! And for the next 6-7 minutes of big fat American cars whipping around San Fransisco, there's absolutely no music at all. That's ballsy fimmaking. (btw, an omage to this can be seen in the 'fight scene' in my first film)
NUMBER FOUR: The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
Sure, this film is easily even more terrible than Bullitt, and yes, a good deal of the really 'close call' stuff was CGI, but the result is undeniable: some really great car chases. I remember walking out of this movie thinking that they had actually done something new and unique, and that alone is noteworthy. In a genre where cars chasing each other has been done and done to death, being innovative and exciting deserves some recognition. The fact that they did it at night on the streets of Tokyo (aka: Los Angeles) ? That just makes it all the better.
PS: hey all you bit torrent junkie out there! Someone please rip the srteet chase from this movie and put it on YouTube, there's a lack of good rips from this movie out there!
NUMBER THREE: The Bourne Identity (2002)
Here's where practical locations, top talent stunt people, expert shooting and editing choices and a great concept all come together and deliver the knock out punch. Most car chases 'feature' a car - like Bullitt pimping the brand new 1968 mustang, etc.. But here, the hero is stuck in the least likely of cars - a beat up old Cooper Mini. All teh credit for this stellar car chase goes to 2nd unit director Alexander Witt who shot 99% of the chase, and of course, to the editors Saar Klein and Chris Rouse - not sure which of them cut the chase, but it is awesome. I especially like the script starting the chase off - Bourne casually asks Marie if she takes good care of the car, changes the oil, rotates the tires, etc...while he's adjusting the mirrors and memorizing a map of the city in less than 30 seconds... all great set up for the chase to come.
NUMBER TWO: The French Connection (1971)
Technically, he's chasing a train, but that's part of what makes it so cool. The other thing that makes it cool is that it's really, actually terrifying. The 90mph single take that dominates the scene has some close calls in it that are, well, really close. This will never be done again, and it will never see it's equal: many of the shots were done illegally, and the guy who worked for the MTA who gave them permission to use the train was fired immediately following. But it was worth it!
NUMBER ONE: The Blues Brothers (1980)
Yes, it's a comedy. But I promise you that no one before or since has pushed the boundaries of the film car chase as far as the true Master Craftsman, the amazing John Landis.
The Mall Chase: